A New Hampshire woman who won $560 million playing Powerball is now in a fight for her private life, challenging a state law that prevents her big winners from remaining anonymous.
The woman, known in court papers as “Jane Doe,” is challenging a law in the Granite State that dictates a lottery winner’s name, town, and prize amount are public information. She has not yet collected her prize.
According to the complaint filed in Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua last week, Jane Doe won America’s eighth largest lottery jackpot of all time on Jan. 6.
After realizing she had hit the big one, she signed the back of the ticket, believing she was required to do so in accordance with the rules on the lottery website. But on contacting a lawyer, the New Hampshire Powerball winner discovered that she could have protected her privacy by writing the name of a nominated trust through which she could have then claimed her prize anonymously.
Owning Your Image
If her legal challenge is unsuccessful, Doe is destined to become a cog in the New Hampshire Lottery’s relentless publicity machine.
“She has described the signing as ‘a huge mistake,'” her lawyer wrote in court documents. “She is a longtime resident of New Hampshire and is an engaged community member. She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.”
Doe’s petition before the court also cited safety concerns, and explained her desire to contribute a portion of her winnings to charity. “She wishes to be a silent witness to these good works,” her lawyer said, “far from the glare and misfortune that has often fallen upon other lottery winners.”
Jackpots and Crackpots
Doe is concerned about her safety, and perhaps with good reason. It’s not unknown for lottery winners to be robbed or even killed as a result of their sudden, highly-publicized enrichment. In 2016, a forklift truck driver from Atlanta, Craigory Burch, Jr., was murdered during a home invasion shortly after he won $434,272 on the Georgia Lottery.
When Chicopee, Massachusetts, resident Mavis Wanczyk won the biggest ever single jackpot payout in US history – $758.7 million – in August 2017, fellow residents of the town began noticing strangers wandering around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking where she lived. Police were forced to step up security around Wanczyk’s house.
Another Massachusetts lottery winner told the Boston Herald this week that “it’s not worth it to have your name out there” because “you’re big news for 24 hours, and you get all the crackpots who say you owe them money or they want money.”
Her advice to Jane Doe?
“Get a lawyer and then leave the state.”